When you cruise the Consortium Book Sales and Distribution aisle, stop to congratulate the small, nonprofit Bellevue Literary Press (3905a) on both its fifth anniversary and its prize-winning authors (present in spirit only). Of the eight fiction titles BLP has published in its short history, three have received major literary honors: The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak (a 2011 National Book Award finalist) recently received the first annual Chautauqua Prize, The Jump Artist by Austin Ratner won the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, and the New York Times bestseller Tinkers by Paul Harding received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.
And yes: Bellevue Literary Press is housed inside New York’s Bellevue Hospital. That’s because BLP is actually a project of the NYU School of Medicine—and Bellevue is one of the hospitals where NYU School of Medicine students are trained. Erika Goldman, publisher and editorial director, explains: “We are with Bellevue not because we work with the hospital directly, but because the relationship between NYU School of Medicine and Bellevue Hospital dates back to the 19th century.
“In the NYU Department of Medicine at Bellevue, “ continues Goldman, there’s a tradition of literary medical writing by the chiefs of medicine. One of the most famous is Lewis Thomas, whose collection of nonfiction essays The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher (1974) was a bestseller. We like to claim him as our predecessor.”
In 2001, Dr. Martin Blaser, chief of medicine, conceived of the Bellevue Literary Review, so named because of the writing history of his peers. Goldman—a publishing professional who has held editorial positions at St. Martin’s Press, Simon & Schuster, Scribner’s (“before it lost its final S”), and W.H. Freeman—knew Dr. Jerome Lowenstein, a colleague of Dr. Blaser’s. “I pitched him the idea of a line of books. He agreed, saying, ‘As long as you get your own funding and get distribution, we’ll house you here.’ ”
At BEA, BLP will feature two fall titles: The Polish Boxer (Oct.), “a remarkable novel by Eduardo Halfon, a first-time-in-English, highly laurelled” young Latin American author, and The Cage: The Fight for Sri Lanka and the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers (Sept.) by Gordon Weiss, “on our list because Bellevue has a wonderful program called the Program for Survivors of Torture, the only comprehensive torture treatment center in New York City..”
“It’s gratifying that we are part of a community of passionate readers,” asserts Goldman. “There’s nothing like BEA to remind us of that.”